ROEPER: 12 ways Chicago hogged the pop-culture spotlight in 2017

SHARE ROEPER: 12 ways Chicago hogged the pop-culture spotlight in 2017
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“People love anything with ‘Chicago’ in the title, it’s been proven,” Lauren Graham’s character Bridget tells Larry David on a recent episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Joke if you will, Larry David, but Chicago is big on TV and in movies these days. | HBO

On a recent episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Larry David is watching a preview of a TV show with Lauren Graham’s Bridget, a foul-mouthed NBC censor prone to telling graphic stories about her sexual past.

On the show within the show, Jerry O’Connell and Ali Larter are playing detectives about to inspect a murder scene.

Larry: What’s the name of this show?

Bridget: “Chicago Homicide.”

Larry: Oh, my God, you poor kid.

Bridget: It’s not that bad, people love it.

Larry: People love THIS?

Bridget: People love anything with ‘Chicago’ in the title, it’s been proven.

[Larry lets loose with a hearty laugh.]

Laugh if you will, Mister Larry David, but ask the folks at the real-life NBC how much they love those shows with “Chicago” in the title, from “Chicago Fire” to “Chicago Med” to “Chicago P.D.”

OK, so “Chicago Justice” lasted just 13 episodes, but maybe that’s because folks who watch “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago Med” and “Chicago P.D.” mistakenly believed they’d already seen “Chicago Justice” before actually watching “Chicago Justice” because they were experiencing “Chicago”-titled overload.

Not that the Chicago TV universe is confined only to shows with “Chicago” in the title. Just one example: Showtime’s long-running hit “Shameless,” which is set in Chicago and admittedly films mostly in Los Angeles — with a few weeks of filming in the Chicago area every year — was recently renewed for its ninth season.

Emmy Rossum has been playing South Side spitfire Fiona Gallagher for a third of her life. That’s Chicago strong.

• • •

I remember sitting in the theater and hearing audiences break into applause when certain familiar Chicago landmarks appeared in movies such as “The Blues Brothers” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “The Untouchables.” Back in the 1980s, it was a relatively uncommon thing to see a movie or a TV show with Chicago front and center.

In 2017, it seemed as if Chicago was everywhere on the pop culture landscape. Here’s a look at just some examples of the city making its presence known in 2017.

Who’s picking up the check? The Ellen DeGeneres-produced NBC reality show “First Dates” featured real-life singles from across the country meeting for, well, first dates at the popular, upscale River North restaurant MK.

Brett Gelman (left) plays Murray Bauman, a former Sun-Times investigative reporter tasked with solving a mysterious death from the first season of “Stranger Things.” | Netflix

Brett Gelman (left) plays Murray Bauman, a former Sun-Times investigative reporter tasked with solving a mysterious death from the first season of “Stranger Things.” | Netflix

We’ve seen Stranger Things in the newsroom: Season Two of the wildly popular Netflix series “Stranger Things” introduced one Murray Bauman, a Chicago Sun-Times reporter turned private investigator. (Brett Gelman, who played Murray, grew up in Highland Park.)

Key moments in the Netflix series “Ozark” (with, from left, McKinley Belcher III, Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) were shot in Chicago. | Netflix

Key moments in the Netflix series “Ozark” (with, from left, McKinley Belcher III, Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) were shot in Chicago. | Netflix

Only Aquaman could survive that fall: The sensational new Netflix series “Ozark” is set mainly in the Ozarks, if you can believe it — but the story kicks off in Chicago and occasionally returns here. Jason Bateman plays Marty Byrde, a Chicago financial adviser laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel. When things go horribly, violently wrong, Marty and family have to pick up and move to the Ozarks.

The opening episode features some great shots of the skyline as seen from inside various high-rise structures. One character lives on the 80th floor of the Aqua tower — and plunges to his death with a resounding SPLAT just a few yards in front of Marty Byrde.

Chance the Rapper showed some decent comedy chops as host of “Saturday Night Live.” | NBC

Chance the Rapper showed some decent comedy chops as host of “Saturday Night Live.” | NBC

Chance the Multi-Tasker: Chicago hip-hop superstar Chance the Rapper announced six-figure grants to dozens of arts programs in area schools; grilled up Nando’s Chicken at the opening of the store’s flagship location in the Loop, with all proceeds going to his non-profit; gave away coats to the homeless; donated backpacks to kids at the Bud Billiken Parade; drew the biggest crowd of any headliner (outdrawing the likes of Paul McCartney and Lady Gaga) at Lollapalooza since its 2005 revival — and demonstrated genuine acting/comedy chops as the host of “Saturday Night Live.”

Chance scored as a basketball announcer filling in on hockey duty for the MSG Network: “The story of the game is, one of the main guys on the Rangers, don’t know how to say his name, it has like 30 letters in it, none of them are vowels, he’s playing great, which is crazy because he got in a full fistfight in the first minute of the game, but as they say in hockey, ‘Let’s do that hockey!’ ”

Grandmas played by Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski and Cheryl Hines disrupted a Chicago Midnight Mass in “A Bad Moms Christmas.” | STX Entertainment

Grandmas played by Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski and Cheryl Hines disrupted a Chicago Midnight Mass in “A Bad Moms Christmas.” | STX Entertainment

Bad moms, bad movie, bad imitation: “A Bad Moms Christmas” is set in a Chicago that looks nothing like Chicago, probably because it was filmed in Atlanta.

It also featured the most inaccurate depiction of a Midnight Mass in Chicago you’ll ever see. Ever. While it’s in progress, a number of main characters engage in a loud, full-blown conversation that goes on and on and ON — and nobody around them says a word.

Try that at an actual Midnight Mass in Chicago, and even with the spirit of Baby Jesus permeating the air, you’ll be told to keep it a “Silent Night” in a heartbeat.

“Moonlight” writer Tarell Alvin McCraney (left) and writer-director Barry Jenkins display their Oscars. | Getty Images

“Moonlight” writer Tarell Alvin McCraney (left) and writer-director Barry Jenkins display their Oscars. | Getty Images

Dancing in the “Moonlight”: The Academy Award-winning film “Moonlight” (released in 2016, oh-so-memorably honored in 2017) is based on the drama school project “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who to this day is a part of the Steppenwolf ensemble. McCraney took home an Oscar for co-writing the “Moonlight” screenplay.

Tracy Letts and fellow Steppenwolf ensemble member Laurie Metcalf in “Lady Bird.” | Merie Wallace/A24 Films

Tracy Letts and fellow Steppenwolf ensemble member Laurie Metcalf in “Lady Bird.” | Merie Wallace/A24 Films

Magic carpet ride: Speaking of Steppenwolf, two of its all-time great members enjoyed banner years in 2018.

Laurie Metcalf won a Tony for her work in “A Doll’s House Part 2,” and she is almost certain to be nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for “Lady Bird.”

Tracy Letts, who was superb as Metcalf’s husband in “Lady Bird,” also turned in brilliant work in “The Lovers” and the upcoming “The Post.”

Former Cubs catcher David Ross dances with Lindsay Arnold on “Dancing with the Stars.” | ABC

Former Cubs catcher David Ross dances with Lindsay Arnold on “Dancing with the Stars.” | ABC

From understudy to superstar: For the bulk of his career, David Ross was a reliable but virtually invisible journeyman backup catcher. In his 15-year career, Ross batted .229. He never drove in more than 52 runs in a single season.

Then came the Cubs’ magical run of 2016 and the emergence of “Grandpa Rossy” — big-brother figure to Anthony Rizzo, team leader, clutch performer. Thanks to luck and opportunity and a genuine everyman charisma, Ross became the most famous backup catcher since Bob Uecker, culminating with his impressive run in 2017 on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Steve Harvey. | NBCUniversal

Steve Harvey. | NBCUniversal

Thanks for the parting gift! After five years of production in Chicago, “The Steve Harvey Show” left for Los Angeles — but not before veteran media columnist Robert Feder shared an email Harvey had sent his staff about how they should interact, or, should we say, not interact with him.

“Do not open my dressing room door,” wrote Harvey. “IF YOU OPEN MY DOOR, EXPECT TO BE REMOVED. … Do not approach me while I’m in the makeup chair. … I will not entertain you in the hallway, and do not attempt to walk with me. … If you’re reading this, yes, I mean you.”

The big hit: The best romantic comedy of 2017 was “The Big Sick,” written by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, based on the time he was an aspiring comic in Chicago and she was a grad student who took seriously ill shortly after they broke up.

Someone’s gonna pay for that! (SPOILER ALERT: “Justice League” plot point just ahead.)

After Superman’s death in “Batman v. Superman” (2016), an enormous monument to Superman is built in Metropolis — which looks an awful lot like Chicago, given that we can see a number of Michigan Avenue skyscrapers in the background. (The statue of Superman appears to be in Millennium Park.) In “Justice League,” Chicago — I mean, Metropolis — police stand by helplessly as a number of superheroes get into a brawl by the monument, ripping up the concrete and causing all sorts of damage.

No doubt the city will get to cleaning that up right after they finish patching up all the potholes in the city.

Among the nostalgic songs featured in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is the Chicago favorite “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah. | Marvel Studios

Among the nostalgic songs featured in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is the Chicago favorite “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah. | Marvel Studios

Tomorrow is another day: The timeless Chicago anthem “Lake Shore Drive” gets prominent placement in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”

In a Rolling Stone article, “Guardians” director James Gunn said, “ ‘Lake Shore Drive’ is a song that I grew up with. It was a regional hit in … St. Louis and Chicago … truly one of the catchiest songs ever written, and I knew there were a thousand places that I could’ve used it easily in ‘Guardians’ because it’s so easy to fit into the movie.”

Skip Haynes, who wrote “Lake Shore Drive,” died in October at 71. He was the last surviving member of Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah, which had a hit with the song.

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